Saying goodbye to a ‘spirited little pup’.
Never have I witnessed so strongly the beautiful bond of love between people and their pets.
On the 6th of March I sat in the passenger seat of Dr Jackie’s car, as we drove along scenic roads to Diddillibah. Diddillibah is a suburb on the Sunshine Coast. Its name comes from a local Aboriginal word ‘dhilla’, which means carpet snake and ‘ba’, which means place, it was known as the “valley of the snakes”. With its lovely winding roads, the name made sense. Though the journey was undoubtedly pretty, feelings of unease sometimes crept up on me. We were driving along these twists and turns to help a family say goodbye to their much-loved foxie cross, Amber.
I’d heard many stories of how gentle in home goodbyes were, but witnessing a family say goodbye was something I’d never experienced.
When we arrived, it was obvious that Amber was much more than just a pet. She was part of the family. She was also tired and unwell. At 23, this little girl had been a fighter from birth. Originally Amber was unlucky enough to be born into an abusive home. She had her leg broken and to the day she passed was inexplicably afraid of brooms and extension cords. It paints an awful picture and one Amber obviously never forgot. Fortunately, she became part of the Slegers’ lives when they rescued her from a pound in the Southern highlands of NSW. The Slegers described Amber as a beautifully loyal girl, with a big heart and an undeniable streak of badass! She had always been Queen Bee. Amber was the smallest, but also the bossiest of the other dogs in the home.
We chatted about Amber for a while in the lounge and then gathered outside on the verandah where Amber lay in her bed. Stories were shared that brought tears to everyone’s eyes and when everyone was ready, Amber was made comfortable, fluffed up in her little bed and given lots of pats and cuddles. Dr Jackie then gave her a small amount of sedative which made her visibly relaxed and sleepy. It was mentioned that seeing their girl relaxed was comforting. After living such a long and full life, this feisty foxie had become arthritic in her old age. Her mobility, sight and hearing had also deteriorated and she often seemed uncomfortable. Seeing her now feeling more at ease and without pain was a welcomed relief.
Lots of hugs and kisses were given to this precious girl. A few more tears were shed. After an overdose of anaesthetic, Amber drifted off to sleep.
More hugs, more tears, but also relief. She was finally comfortable and at peace. It was a sad moment, but also an incredibly beautiful one. It was beautiful to see the obvious love the Slegers had for their girl. Beautiful to know that although they wanted her to stay forever, they wanted more for her comfort and quality of life. Beautiful to see that saying goodbye didn’t feel quite so final.
Amber was carried down to the family garden for home burial and she was lowered into the ground with the ashes of a family dog who had passed in times prior.
Afterwards, there was discussion of planting a tree in Ambers honour. There was a morning tea, where memories were shared over lots of food (because Amber always loved indulging in a treat). There were some tears, some laughter and a lot of love.
Amber was truly one of a kind, a well-loved girl who lived a full life with a loving family. Though she was gone physically, it was obvious that she would live on in the many beautiful memories shared. I know I personally will never forget her.
Driving back from Diddillibah, I was glad to have been a part of Amber’s final goodbye. Though saddened, I also felt inspired. Inspired by the love and dedication families have for their pets. Inspired by the work Dr Jackie and the team do to ensure that when the time comes, we can say goodbye to our four-legged friends in a personal and comfortable environment that is familiar and full of love and memories. It’s an end of life option I couldn’t be prouder to support.
Rest in peace Amber, and thank you to the Slegers family for allowing me to be part of this moment in your lives and helping me see firsthand just how much the pain of loss is a testament to the depth of love.